Police Shootings at Racially Charged Miami ‘Urban Beach Week’

The ACLU is calling for an outside investigation into a shootout that ended in the death of one alleged gunman and left three officers and four bystanders wounded -- the latter possibly hit by stray police bullets.

By Channing Kennedy Jun 01, 2011

The ACLU is calling for an outside investigation into a shootout in the streets of Miami Beach early Monday morning, which ended in the death of one alleged gunman, but which also left three officers and four bystanders wounded — the latter possibly hit by stray police bullets. The incident comes as a grim conclusion to Miami’s tenth annual Urban Beach Week, a massively popular Memorial Day Weekend event that attracts racially coded criticism and police scrutiny in equal measure.

According to police reports, a man struck a police officer with his car at around 4:00 AM, then sped off, bouncing off of parked vehicles for the next three blocks. Unconfirmed reports say the driver was firing a gun as he drove; Youtube video shows police firing into the car multiple times until it comes to a halt, then surrounding it. The driver was declared dead at the scene; no gun was found in the vehicle. An internal police investigation is underway.

David Smiley at the Miami Herald writes:

At Jackson Memorial Hospital, a woman who wouldn’t give her name told WSVN-7 that police shot her friend while they were running back to her hotel room.

"The police shot her," she said. "It was by accident, but they still shot her."

Another witness, Ashley Hinds, 23, from Nashville, said she was leaving Mansion on Washington Avenue when she heard the shots.

"I tried to go back in, but some lady closed the doors and even though we were knocking she never opened them," Hinds said. "I was afraid. People were running. It was a scary scene."

Two Miami Beach officers and a Hialeah officer were also hurt during the chase and shooting.

The shooting comes as a blow to city officials already under long-standing pressure to end the annual festival. One such critic, Herb Sosa, president of Miami-area Hispanic gay rights group Unity Coalition, published an caps-laden open letter calling on Miami Beach’s mayor to "make the difficult but correct decision to put an end to Urban Weekend in Miami Beach and help us SAVE OUR CITY," calling the city a "warzone" and referring to the festivalgoers as an "unruly & dangerous mob," and asking "When did perceived political or social correctness override the safety & well-being of a community? This is not a race, economic or ethnic issue, it is an issue of visitors who have a total lack of respect for our community, its property & citizens." The letter took off in views after being picked up by conservative blog Drudge Report.

David Kelsey, president of the South Beach Hotel & Restaurant Association, also says it’s not about race: "There’s still a gulf between the crowd we’re attracting and the crowd we really want to attract and need for future business."

Kelsey’s statement attracted the ire of the Awl’s Choire Sicha, who presents some stats about how business is booming at every Miami Beach luxury hotel and luxury car rental agency, and concludes of Kelsey’s present-yet-undesirable luxury crowds: "So you know, "they" are all luxurious enough to rent the town’s entire stock of $2000-a-day rental cars but not luxurious enough to be… white. (Also, I’m sorry, have none of these white people ever set foot inside a Louis Vuitton store? Who do you think made that into a bajillion-dollar business?)"

Meanwhile, the ACLU reports widespread complaints from festivalgoers of police racial profiling.